In light of recent events, I decided to put a pause on the ten part series on how to become the greatest salesman in the world to reflect on the state of the human community as it stands today, because these events affect us all.
[Side Note – This was written before I read about the appalling gang rape that took place in New Delhi. I mention this, as I believe the cultural implications and media reportage of that event alter the implications of the argument made below. I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments]
The acts of inhumanity that took place during the last week have shocked and appalled the people of this nation and the world. Over the course of one week, 26 human beings were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, 20 of them were children under the age of 10, 2 people were shot to death at a mall in Oregon, 22 children and an elderly woman were stabbed at a primary school in China, at least 10 children were killed in an explosion in Afghanistan, two people were gunned down at the Excalibur hotel in Las Vegas, 17 people, including women and children, were killed in a bomb attack in Pakistan…
The list continues. It is longer than any one of us would like to imagine.
To add to the atrocity, the Westboro Baptist Church announced that they would picket the funerals of the innocent lives that were taken at the shooting in Connecticut claiming that their deaths were an act of God in response to America’s stance on homosexuality. A point I felt needed mentioning due to the heinous nature of this act.
Where is our humanity?
My heart and soul goes out to all the men, women and children whose lives were lost in these horrific acts of evil. To the families, nothing I could write or say could make up for your loss. From the bottom of my heart and soul, I am truly sorry…
And so I ask again, what is happening to the human family? Where are we headed? More importantly, what can we learn from this? How can we change our destiny?
The sad reality is that each act of violence that occurs will only be reinforced by another. It is the simple law of social proof. Rest assured, like the law of gravity, this law exists and cannot be broken. Every other insignificant maniac (I use that word intentionally) that has even considered engaging in such an act of inhumanity now has validation to engage in such in an act.
In one of my favorite books on human psychology, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials), Robert Cialdini illustrates this phenomenon through numerous examples. The one that pertains most to our current conditions is a study conducted by Professor David Phillips. While examining the suicide statistics in the US between 1947 and 1968, he found that “within two months after every front-page suicide story, an average of fifty-eight more people than usual killed themselves. In a sense, each suicide story killed fifty-eight people who otherwise would have gone on living. Phillips also found that this tendency for suicides to beget suicides occurred principally in those parts of the country where the first suicide was highly publicized and that the wider the publicity given the first suicide, the greater the number of later suicides.”
This trend is reinforced in numerous other studies throughout the book, but one of the most valuable insights from Professor Phillips within the context of our current discussion is that “immediately following a front-page suicide story the suicide rate increases dramatically in those geographical areas where the story has been highly publicized. It is Phillips’s argument that certain troubled people who read of another’s self-inflicted death kill themselves in imitation. In a morbid illustration of the principle of social proof, these people decide how they should act on the basis of how some other troubled person has acted.”
We as a society are allowing this to happen by giving the nameless perpetrators significance and value, when in fact they must be given none.
“If others are doing it and getting their need for significance met by shooting 26 people in an elementary school, I can do the same, but maybe I should do something to top that”
Some version of that realization is spreading like a virus across the nation and the planet.
Just the other day, I was driving and got caught in a massive traffic jam. One bold individual decided to drive over the grassy medium to move to an adjoining lane with no traffic. As soon as he did that, over 7 cars followed in his stead. This is just a minor example reinforcing Professor Phillips’ conclussions on the law of social proof.
In 2009, after a school shooting in England a forensic scientist made this plea to the mainstream media:
“If you don’t want to propagate more mass murders… Don’t start the story with sirens blaring. Don’t have photographs of the killer. Don’t make this 24/7 coverage. Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story … not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero. Do localize this story to the affected community and as boring as possible in every other market.”
By glamorizing the perpetrators, we endorse their actions. Those who commit such acts of inhumanity do not deserve to be named, yet our media immortalizes them. Their names remain etched in our collective memory while the victims and the heroes from these events fade away. They are erased from history to be replaced with only a number. In the case of Sandy Hook, 26.
Turn on the news today. What do you find? Nothing but acts of violence and atrocity. Darren Hardy, the author of the Compound Principles and publisher of Success Magazine, suggests that we should all go on a news diet in order to maintain a positive mindset and empowering outlook toward the world around us. The real tragedy is that his advice is sound.
Why is it that the pursuit of success requires abandoning the source of insight into the current state of the human condition? Or is it simply that the current state of the human condition is framed in the wrong way by those of us that create, promote, allow and support the current frame?
How many of you saw this headline in the news to report the Elementary school shootings in Connecticut: Hero teacher sacrifices everything to save the lives of her students?
I may not be a headline writer, but I think you get my point. Yes, a few articles celebrating the heroes have been scattered throughout the internet, but unless I actually entered the word hero into a google search, for the first few days after the shooting, every story focused on the perpetrator. For the most part, the focus remains on the inhumanity as opposed to the humanity.To the evil as opposed to the good. This trend permeates the mainstream media and it permeates our lives.
How many of you focus on what you don’t have instead of what you do have? Do you constantly wish you had more money or are you grateful for the wealth you have now?
We are conditioned by the world around us to see only the destruction that occurs, not the growth. Inevitably, that is what we see in our own lives.
We continue to encourage man’s inhumanity to man through our media. The horrific events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School is primarily the work of a worthless individual that shall remain nameless. While “nameless” is the sole perpetrator in this devastating tragedy, we all have the power to claim responsibility for the conditions that created the current state of our community.
What would it look like if we encouraged, supported and promoted a new frame?
As a waterfall begins with a single drop of water, we will start small by creating that frame right here in our community on existing2living. Instead of simply hoping that this new frame catches on, I beg, implore and plead with all of you to spread this frame across your respective communities. Encourage the world around you to celebrate our humanity, not glorify the lack of it. What would it look like to see a news source that documents only empowering stories 24/7? I encourage you all to take responsibility for shifting the way in which we perceive our human family. To create a new paradigm. We get to say what it looks like and we can start making that change one person at a time.
As Gandhi said, we can “be the change we want to see in the world.”
By now I am sure many of you have heard the names Victoria Soto, Kaitlin Roig and Dawn Hochsprung. If not, these are just a few of the heroes from the events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School and I suggest you read about them. Their acts of bravery represent humanity at it’s finest.
Instead of retelling their story here, let us be inspired by their humanity and take action to continue the legacy of courage, service and sacrifice. Let us lead the charge for establishing a new frame throughout the human community by focusing on the good that we can learn from these events and drive us forward. Let us use the law of social proof to our advantage to promote, foster and encourage acts of humanity as opposed to acts of inhumanity.
With that in mind, as we enter into the Christmas and New Years holidays, I encourage you all to get out there and engage in one act of self-sacrifice for another human being. As one tiny stone leads to a ripple in an entire pond, no matter how small or how large, one simple action compounded over time, space and the community will transform the world.
We can call this the “rebuilding the human family movement.” Take just one action to put someone else’s needs or well being ahead of your own, even if it’s only for a minute.
In the Marine Corps, we all took actions every day for the good of the group. Individual well being was secondary to the mission and to the team. That attitude made us act as one. It built an unbreakable bond between all of us. We can do the same for all of humanity.
Just as the people of India have banded together to encourage a massive cultural and political shift after the tragedy in New Delhi, let us band together for this mission of “rebuilding the human family.”
Please share your stories in the comments below. I would love to hear what you are doing to promote love and a sense of community toward human beings all over the planet.